Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
A critically praised turn as a fleet-footed club owner on "The Get Down" (Netflix, 2016-17) gave actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen a career boost that led to major roles in "The Greatest Showman" (2017) and "Aquaman" (2018). Born July 15, 1987 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Abdul-Mateen was raised in the city's Magnolia Projects before relocating with his family to Oakland, California. There, he harbored a desire to become an actor, but pursued a career in architecture, earning a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and working for a period of time as a city planner in San Francisco. But upon being laid off, Abdul-Mateen took a risk and focused his energy on becoming an actor; he was soon cast in a local stage production, which prompted him to apply to the Yale Drama School, where he earned a master's degree in fine arts. More stage work followed, including roles with the Williamstown Festival in Massachusetts and New York's Shakespeare in the Park, before Abdul-Mateen made his television debut as Cadillac, a vain, disco-dancing club owner in the Baz Luhrmann-produced "The Get Down." The praise afforded to him by his performance led to steady and diverse work in features and on television; in the former capacity, he moved deftly from broad comedies like "Baywatch" (2017) to musicals like "The Greatest Showman," which cast him as acrobat W.D. Wheeler, and indie efforts like "First Match" (2018), for which he played the estranged father of a teenaged girl and aspiring wrestler. On the small screen, Abdul-Mateen appeared on "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu, 2017- ) and was cast in HBO's "Watchmen" series, but his breakout role came in theaters when he was tapped to play the undersea bounty hunter Black Manta, longtime nemesis to "Aquaman" in James Wan's feature adaptation of the venerable DC Comics fantasy title.